In this episode, Robert Greene forces us to confront our inherently covetousness nature: we always want what we don’t have. And yet, if we do get those things, we rapidly fall out of love with them. Why does possessing something make our enjoyment of it fade? Why is the grass always greener on the other side, no matter how often we jump back and forth over the fence?
Jon has experienced a lot of this recently. Nomadically wandering the globe was often stressful and demanding, and he found himself longing for stability and being closer to his friends. But, just a few months after settling back into the UK, he finds himself looking back at rose-tinted memories of life on the road. Context changes everything: the parts of us which are undernourished in any setting start to shout the loudest for attention. Is there a way to balance these competing desires?
But this is about more than wanting physical things. We also do this with people! It’s easy to become taken for granted if you make yourself too available to others; if you lay all your cards on the table; or if you act 100% predictably all the time. It’s time to change things up and become more mysterious and elusive.
This Law of Human Nature is closely connected to several of the 48 Laws of Power: Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary, Law 8: Make Other People Come to You – Use Bait if Necessary, and Law #16: Use Absence to Increase Respect & Honour. We humans just can’t seem to help ourselves – when something seems scarce or just out of sight, we clamour to possess it, to unlock its mysteries.
But what if being mysterious and playing games just isn’t your nature? What if we’re so bombarded these days by people being either ultra mysterious or ultra vulnerable that we’re forgetting something crucial. We need to be more sensitive to context: tricks and tips about being mysterious and distant might work if you’re playing networking or seduction games, but they are far less effective if you’re trying to build deep interpersonal bonds. Doing a vanishing act and refusing to open up can be toxic for friendships, and, in truth, not even that good for business relationships (especially when dealing face-to-face).
Ultimately, our innate covetousness – our desire for change and for more – can be harnessed for good. It can drive us to grow, to learn, to have new experiences and use our imaginations as a springboard into the future. The danger is that we just keeping looking for change and never enjoy what we have when we receive it
People often say that, after climbing some kind of mountain in your life you realise it’s lonely at the top. But wait a minute – what actually happens when you climb a mountain is an incredible, exhilarating sense of achievement and peace as you stop to take in the view. The trick is not to think about the next mountain, but to take the time to appreciate where you are, here and now.
- Why Coco Chanel was the master of this Law
- Struggling to Say Less Than Necessary when asked direct questions
- Are crowds reassuring or terrifying?
- How money and the internet ruin everything
- Mysterious sex
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